Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Parents

Is This a Significant Problem?

Bernice D. Mowery, PhD, PNP, RN


Pediatr Nurs. 2011;37(2):89-92. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has recently been noted in parents after traumatic childbirth, with premature infants in the NICU, after a child has experienced acute trauma or a life-threatening illness and when a child develops a chronic illness. The reported incidence of PTSD in parents in these situations ranges from 1.5% to 6% with traumatic childbirth (Ayers & Pickering, 2001; Menage, 1993) to 21% to 23% when a child has been in the NICU or PICU (Balluffi et al., 2004; Vanderbilt, Bushley, Young, & Frank., 2009), to as high as 30% for parents of children with leukemia (Kazak et al., 1997). In a study by Landolt, Vollrath, Laimbacher, Gnehm, and Sennhauser (2005), all mothers of children who had experienced an episode of severe hypoglycemia developed PTSD.

PTSD seems to occur more often in mothers than fathers (Kazak et al., 1997; Landolt, Vollrath, Laimbacher et al., 2005; Pelcovitz et al., 1996; Shears, Nadel, Gledhill, & Garralda, 2005). However, a recent report suggests that fathers may experience delayed onset of symptoms (Shaw et al., 2009), resulting in the under-reporting of PTSD. When a parent suffers from PTSD, it affects his or her physical and emotional health, relationship with children, and interactions with the health care team. PTSD can also interfere with effective management of the child's illness.


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